PARMIN

Funded by the European Commission under FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IEF-Marie Curie Actions

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Background

The focus of PARMIN (PARys MINerals) is the geomicrobiological analysis of minerals present in Parys Mountain (Mynydd Parys) mine in North Wales, once the biggest producer of copper in the UK. The mine has a fascinating history, extending some four thousand years to the Bronze Age. Further details regarding the mine and its history can be found on the website of the Parys Underground Group, or indeed here.

Previous microbiological investigations at the site were undertaken by the Bangor Acidophile Research Team (BART), the group focusing their analysis on the underground mine water at Parys. PARMIN will provide a more in-depth analysis of the microbial consortia and focus primarily on mineral substrata.

My initial visit to the site was on the evening of April 15th, spending some three hours among some of the 27 km of passages that constitute Parys mine. My first mine experience and one which I will be repeating numerous times over the course of the project. Below are a few photos I managed to obtain with my phone, which as it turns out isn’t the best device to bring on a fieldtrip to an underground acidic mine. Over the course of the next 18 months, I hope to sample a variety of mineralogical substrata within the mine system and determine what influence substratum chemistry has on the resident microbial communities in this extreme environment. It is hoped that investigations will also lead to the isolation of heretofore uncultured taxa.

 

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Quarry Stope; where sparks are produced from pyrite by striking with a rock hammer

 

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Pisanite and/or melanterite, very similar secondary minerals produced as a result of the oxidation of pyrite.

 

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Above: What appears to be fungal biomass on a wall of one of the myriad of passages comprising Parys mine

 

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Fungus in enrichment of sample from Parys mine

 

 

 

 Project highlights

Mineral sampling for the primary analyses concluded in December 2015, with a trip to Cae Coch mine (a sulphur mine) to provide additional samples for comparative purposes.

DNA from mineral samples sent to collaborators at the EMP for sequencing! Sequences returned and analysis in progress….updates on acceptance for publication, or maybe before!

Detection of Archaea in enrichment cultures from Parys, with tRFLP indicating they are novel. Now to get them in isolation…..

Isolation of a novel Sulfobacillus sp., so far displaying characteristics unusual for the genus

Isolation of three strains, possibly representing two species of a known heterotrophic genus of actinobacteria never reported previously from an acid mine environment. Details to be released upon acceptance for publication

It looks like Archaea in pure culture. Awaiting confirmation of SSU rRNA sequence, but finally at least one isolate in pure culture, with others hopefully to follow shortly

PARMIN presented to the UK Geomicrobiology Network at the 2015 annual meeting (June) hosted by Bangor University

The first official introduction of PARMIN to the international scientific community at ISME16 in Montreal (August 2016), via the poster below. Varied interest in this work, with people asking questions not only about the mineralogy and prokaryotic communities, but also from those interested in the fungal components of these mineral communities, which are indeed present and very obvious in the mine

Geomicro Poster Bangor 2016

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